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Increase Mather (1639-1723) was an influential Boston Congregational minister during the period when colonial leadership passed over to the first native-born generation in North America. He attended Harvard at age twelve and graduated at seventeen. The following year, he delivered his first sermon in Massachusetts and then traveled to England to preach. He returned to New England and in 1661 he accepted a post at Boston's North Church. The next year he married his stepsister, Maria Cotton.

Mather was an author and educator, and exhibited a fierce independence throughout his life. In 1676 he published a Brief History of the War with the Indians in New England, in which he argued that King Philip's War was a form of divine judgment sent upon the second generation of Puritans for having failed to follow "the blessed design of their Fathers." He said that the new generation had forsaken church protection by seeking material gain over spiritual purity. He also wrote the preface to Mary Rowlandson's famous captivity narrative from her experience during King Philip's War (1675-76). When King Charles II demanded that the Massachusetts colonists pledge absolute fealty to him or lose their charter (in 1683), Mather announced that it would be a sin against God for the colonists to agree and pledge their obedience. He argued that God alone was deserving of absolute fealty. The colonists agreed and Massachusetts lost its charter in 1686. Two years later, Mather again traveled to England to express the colonists' gratitude to King James II for his declaration of liberty to all faiths. He remained in England through the Glorious Revolution, when he obtained from the new King William and Queen Mary a removal of the despised Massachusetts Governor Edmund Andros; Sir William Phipps was appointed in Andros's place. Mather also acquired a new charter for his home colony in 1691. He then returned to Massachusetts, where the new charter proved so unpopular that he felt compelled to give up his post as president of Harvard in 1701.

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